Bharatpur Election In Shambles

 

Uttam Maharjan

 

A state of pandemonium has surfaced in the political landscape. The Bharatpur incident involving the tearing of ballot papers while vote counting was going on has turned the scene topsy-turvy. Although the guilty were nabbed from the spot, they were later released on a bail of Rs. 100,000 each. It was found that altogether 90 ballot papers were torn. The main opposition party, the  CPN-UML, demanded a re-count considering only a few ballot papers unfit for counting, whereas the  CPN-Maoist Centre and the Nepali Congress sought a re-election. The Election Commission also decided to conduct a re-election. This has enraged the CPN-UML and the general people.

Truth

It has been un unvarnished truth that the Bhartpur incident occurred due to the possibility of the Maoist candidate Renu Dhala, who also happens to be the daughter of Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, losing the contest. At the time of the incident, the CPN-UML candidate, Devi Gyawali, was leading the contest.

As soon as the decision in favour of the re-election came out, the CPN-UML came  heavily down on the Election Commission, accusing it of deciding upon the re-election under the jackboots of the government. The party has said that it would oppose the decision politically or otherwise. The court was also moved against the decision.  Further, the party obstructed the House proceedings for days, demanding a re-count in Bharatpur, hampering even the proceedings for electing the new Prime Minister. In the meantime, the Supreme Court has issued a stay order against the implementation of the decision of the Election Commission till June 11, deeming it necessary to call both the plaintiffs and defendants to discuss the matter thoroughly and issue a final decision accordingly. 

The Bharatpur incident is a contretemps. The results of all the polls were about to come out marking successful completion of the local poll when the incident occurred, casting doubt on the fairness of the  poll. Further, the decision of the Election Commission to conduct a re-election as desired by the CPN-Maoist Centre and the Nepali Congress has exacerbated the situation. The demand of the CPN-UML for a recount of the votes setting aside the torn votes as invalid is plausible.

The decision of the Election Commission, if implemented,  may have something adverse in store for the upcoming second round of the local poll as well as the provincial and federal elections to be held by January 2018. The CPN-UML claims that if the re-election is held on the pretext of treating the incident as seizure of the polling booth, then such incidents may crop up frequently, forcing the Election Commission to conduct re-elections time and again. This will drain on the state coffers on the one hand, while on the other both the candidates and voters will be under an unnecessary strain. To avoid such a cringe-worthy situation, it would be better for the Election Commission to exercise savoir-faire and judgment based on practical grounds.

During the premiership of Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda some positive developments did appear in the country, the most prominent one being an end to the perennial problem of load-shedding. With this, the industrial, business and household sectors have heaved a sigh of relief. Extirpation of load-shedding has redounded to improvement in the economy. The economic growth is now estimated at around seven per cent, which is a very encouraging indicator for the country.

Prachanda’s second innings as Prime Minister was out and away more successful than his previous innings although there were some shortcomings this time around also. His resignation from the executive post to give way to Nepali Congress president Sher Bhadur Deuba as per the gentleman’s agreement has also established Prachanda as a man of integrity. Despite these positive developments, his attempt at turning the election for Mayor in  Bharatpur Metropolitan City in favour of his daughter is taken as despicable, which may throw cold water on his achievements as Prime Minister.

Elections should free and fair. Voters should be allowed to cast their votes in a fearless environment. Likewise, after the elections vote counting should also proceed fairly. Use of force or intimidation tactics should never be used whether during the elections or vote counting. Wins or defeats are natural in any election. It is the nobility of any political party to accept the results whether they are in their favour or not.

Issue of image

The attitude of the CPN-Maoist Centre and the Nepali Congress towards the Bharatpur incident does not seem to be democratic in that they demanded a re-election as soon as the incident occurred. Further, releasing the Maoist cadres found guilty in the incident on bail instead of taking strong action against them is also objectionable. This may encourage similar incidents in the future. This makes one suspect whether the tearing the ballot papers was a design of the CPN-Maoist and the Nepali Congress to disrupt the vote counting and force the Election Commission to conduct a re-election.

The Bharatpur incident is thus a blot on the escutcheon of the local poll. Such incidents should never be allowed to take place in the future. For this, all the political parties should show integrity and responsible behaviour.  After all, the image of a political party is more important than just winning an election in one or two constituencies by misusing power or by employing a ruse. Such irresponsible behaviour of the party may affect its prospects in future elections.

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